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Short Hops: Jake’s story is an important one

Short Hops is a new, weekly look at news and information that is of interest to the Canadian baseball community from the pros to the local sandlots!

Shooting Star – The annual #BellLetsTalk initiative took place on Thursday raising funds and awareness for mental health issues, and to help end the stigma surrounding the topic. Baseball Canada showed its support by sharing a TSN documentary that aired in 2018 about former Junior National Team star pitcher Jake Eliopoulos. On the surface, Jake had it all. A left-handed pitcher on the national team that oozed potential with his effortless delivery, Jake caught the eye of big league scouts as the Toronto Blue Jays chose the Newmarket native with their second round pick in the 2009 MLB Draft. Deep down, however, things were not OK with Jake and he suffered with depression before taking his own life in April 2013. An extremely tragic story with a life taken far too soon, Jake’s story is an important one that needs to be told.

Cuba Development Camp cancelled – For the last 11 years, Women’s National Team Director Andre Lachance has brought teenaged baseball players to Cuba for a week of baseball in one of the game’s hotbeds while also giving these athletes a cultural experience that is second to none. Unfortunately that won’t happen in 2021 as the annual Girls Baseball Development Camp has been cancelled due to Covid-19. The camp is the second annual event on Baseball Canada’s yearly calendar to be cancelled in 2021 as the Men’s National Team Banquet and Fundraiser that is normally staged in early January could not take place due to the pandemic.

The Great One turns 60! - Wayne Gretzky, one of the best to ever lace up a pair of hockey skates, turned 60 on January 26th. What many don’t know is that the man they call “The Great One” was a pretty good baseball player, pre-NHL, and spent his summers on local ball diamonds in his native Brantford, Ontario. Gretzky won a national Peewee baseball championship in 1973 with the Chatham (Ontario) Kinsmen Peewees who picked up the future all-time NHL scoring leader for the national tournament. He also had a stint with the Brantford Red Sox of the Intercounty Baseball League while his son, Trevor, spent time in the Chicago Cubs’ organization after he was selected in the seventh round of the 2011 MLB Draft.

Walker repeats at #1 on Most Influential Canadians in Baseball list – Larry Walker took the #1 spot for the second consecutive year in Bob Elliott’s Canadian Baseball Network Most Influential Canadians in Baseball list. Seems like a no brainer as the Maple Ridge, BC native became just the second Canadian-born player to be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in January 2020 joining former Chicago Cubs star Fergie Jenkins. Elliott, of course, would never name himself to the list but the man who we named a Baseball Canada award after late last year (The Bob Elliott Media Recognition Award won by Blue Jays’ longtime radio voice Mike Wilner in 2020) deserves kudos for putting this annual list together and giving due recognition to so many Canadians who are impacting the game of baseball from local sandlots all the way to the major leagues!

The end of an era with UBC Baseball – mainstay on Elliott’s Top 100 list, news broke earlier this week that former National Teamer Terry McKaig would be stepping down from his role as Director of Baseball at UBC to work for the BC Cancer Foundation. McKaig started the baseball program at UBC 23 years ago and grew it into a premier option for elite Canadian baseball players, producing numerous winning squads and MLB draft picks headlined by Jeff Francis who was selected ninth overall by the Colorado Rockies in 2002. McKaig was diagnosed with a form of skin cancer last September and underwent successful surgery to remove a growth on his face. The news hit McKaig hard and was a major factor in altering his career path.

“My skin cancer taught me a lot,” said McKaig in a UBC press release to announce the move. “I wanted to ask questions, learn more about cancer and how we can try and prevent it. When the opportunity at the BC Cancer Foundation arose, I knew it was something I wanted to do in this next stage of my life. I want to play a role in helping people overcome this terrible disease.”

Baseball Canada wishes Terry the best in his new career!

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